IBJNews

Acting Indiana chief justice Dickson picked to head court

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A panel voted Tuesday to make longtime Justice Brent Dickson Indiana's first new chief justice in 25 years after other justices said he was suited to bring stability to the state's judicial system amid the most turnover the Supreme Court has seen in decades.

Dickson, 70, is the longest-serving current member of the five-member Supreme Court and has been the acting chief justice since Randall Shepard retired in March.

Three of the other four justices told the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission they supported Dickson taking over as chief justice. The fourth, Frank Sullivan, who is leaving the court to take a teaching position this fall, didn't address the panel.

Dickson will be leading a court in transition since it is expected this fall to get its third new justice in less than two years after no turnover for more than a decade. It could even get a fourth new member, since Dickson said Justice Robert Rucker hasn't decided whether to seek another 10-year term this fall.

Rucker said that with so much change, the court needed some stability.

"It's my view that with so much uncertainty ... Justice Dickson as acting chief justice has been that steady hand," Rucker said. The court's newest members — Mark Massa and Steven David, both appointed by Gov. Mitch Daniels — also recommended Dickson for the top job.

Massa said the appointment of three new justices in 24 months had brought "unprecedented change" and made continuity vital.

"To me, the commission made the right and natural choice. Brent Dickson is universally respected and has earned the complete trust of his colleagues and lawyers statewide. Any other selection would have been a surprise," Daniels said in a statement.

All three justices stressed that the chief justice does much more than write legal opinions and build consensus on the court — he also is the chief administrator of the state's court system, overseeing five judicial agencies and a myriad of initiatives ranging from programs to help attorneys deal with substance abuse or other personal crises to a long-term move to computerize the state courts and put their business online. Dickson, they said, was the best person for the job.

But Dickson, who has served on the court since 1986, told reporters after the vote that he hadn't initially wanted the position until he was talked into it by judges and other government officials.

"There was a growing number of voices that persuaded me to let myself be considered. We're facing an immense change in personnel on the court and our employees needed to know that stability was going to reign," Dickson said.

"They asked me to at least be willing to serve for a period of time, and I said OK," he added.

Dickson said he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 in July 2016, before his five-year term as chief justice expires, but he wasn't sure if he would continue to serve as chief justice until then. "It kind of depends on a lot of personal issues, the issues of filling out the court, getting the vacancies filled. ... It will be sometime between now and July of 2016," he said.

Dickson, who grew up in northwestern Indiana's Hobart, was an attorney in Lafayette when Gov. Robert Orr appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1986. Dickson is one of three current justices who were appointed by Republican governors.

Daniels appointed then-Boone County Judge Steven David to the court when Justice Theodore Boehm retired in 2010. Daniels picked Mark Massa, his former chief counsel in the governor's office, in March to fill the vacancy from Shepard's retirement.

Sullivan, who was appointed in 1993 by Democratic Gov. Evan Bayh, plans to retire this summer to take a teaching job at Indiana University's McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. His replacement will be the third justice to be appointed by Daniels, leaving Rucker as the only Democratic appointee on the court. If Rucker steps down this summer, Daniels could appoint a fourth justice, matching the number appointed by Bayh two decades ago, and shifting the court to entirely Republican appointees.

But justices said Tuesday that politics had no place on the court. "We've never had a D versus R debate," Rucker said. "We've never had anyone come in with an agenda."

Dickson said it was especially important for the chief justice to avoid partisan politics so he could work with both parties in the Statehouse. "The chief justice must be seen as politically neutral," he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. If I were a developer I would be looking at the Fountain Square and Fletcher Place neighborhoods instead of Broad Ripple. I would avoid the dysfunctional BRVA with all of their headaches. It's like deciding between a Blackberry or an iPhone 5s smartphone. BR is greatly in need of updates. It has become stale and outdated. Whereas Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Mass Ave have become the "new" Broad Ripples. Every time I see people on the strip in BR on the weekend I want to ask them, "How is it you are not familiar with Fountain Square or Mass Ave? You have choices and you choose BR?" Long vacant storefronts like the old Scholar's Inn Bake House and ZA, both on prominent corners, hurt the village's image. Many business on the strip could use updated facades. Cigarette butt covered sidewalks and graffiti covered walls don't help either. The whole strip just looks like it needs to be power washed. I know there is more to the BRV than the 700-1100 blocks of Broad Ripple Ave, but that is what people see when they think of BR. It will always be a nice place live, but is quickly becoming a not-so-nice place to visit.

  2. I sure hope so and would gladly join a law suit against them. They flat out rob people and their little punk scam artist telephone losers actually enjoy it. I would love to run into one of them some day!!

  3. Biggest scam ever!! Took 307 out of my bank ac count. Never received a single call! They prey on new small business and flat out rob them! Do not sign up with these thieves. I filed a complaint with the ftc. I suggest doing the same ic they robbed you too.

  4. Woohoo! We're #200!!! Absolutely disgusting. Bring on the congestion. Indianapolis NEEDS it.

  5. So Westfield invested about $30M in developing Grand Park and attendance to date is good enough that local hotel can't meet the demand. Carmel invested $180M in the Palladium - which generates zero hotel demand for its casino acts. Which Mayor made the better decision?

ADVERTISEMENT